Italy’s Witches and Medicine Women

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When I learned about a San Francisco meet-up on the history and culture behind Italian Witchery, I jumped at the chance to see what it was all about. I am, Italian, after all…

A young woman by the name of Karyn Crisis was slated to give an hour seminar on Italy’s Witches and Medicine Women and is currently in the process of writing a book on the subject. Her forthcoming book, is based on her research while living among locals in Italy in the Ligure Region of Italy, Toscana area, Benevento and Sanniti area, Rome, and Udine region, and other areas of Italia as well.

Karyn Crisis is by profession a Spiritual Medium who channels guidance from the spiritual world in order to help her clients on to their spiritual path and to assist them during their daily concerns.

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On a personal level, I have always been fascinated with ancient cultures and languages especial those related to the Indo-European line and in Wiccan, which includes the art of opening circles and in communion with “The Lady” or  “Goddess”. In Italian they will refer to her as “La Grande Madre”.  Mi piacce molto questo nome. (I like this name a lot).

I grew up in a traditional Italian family back east where there was always plenty of food, family and name calling in Italian, all of course said “con amore”. One of the names I do recall that my mother’s sisters and my grand mother using was “Strega” or “Strig” which in Italian dialect means “Witch”.

The Italian word “Strega” derives from the Latin, “Strix, Striges” meaning “Wood Owl”. It was once believed in ancient Roman and Greek mythology that these birds brought bad omens to those who came in contact with them.

Although my aunts would never call themselves “Streghe”, there certainly was no shortage “Stregheria” in my family. My mother was a true believer in the invisible/spirit world in which she passed this trait and sensitivity onto me. I also had two other aunts on my mother’s side who were very “Witchy” in nature. One was a collector of gem stones and often spoke to us of their mystical and healing powers. The oldest, was often working on her psychic abilities and trying to channel the spirit world. She also made a fantastic “Witch” every All Hollows Eve!!!

According to Karyn’s informative seminar, many of these these ancient women or “Streghe” (witches)  had the ability to cure and were known in their towns as local healers. These incredible women were also uneducated and self-taught through the knowledge passed on by the female members of their families.

As the Inquisition swept throughout Europe, the church created a negative campaign against women, tortured and executed them in the most of horrific of ways as a means to spread Christianity.

It was also a way to subjugate them (women healers) to the Catholic church and especially to the male authority of the time.  As a result,  literally millions of innocent women and young ladies were accused of witchery and put to death as the Catholic church grew in strength.

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Today, Italians think of healers and witches as something of the past. There are “Streghe” still living today throughout Italy, however, they tend to be in their 80’s and 90’s inhabiting the rural areas of Italy. There is no unified name for witches in Italy because Italy has always been such a diverse country having so many sub-cultures and dialects of Italian.

Here in the United States, witches may practice as solitary witches or they may belong to covens practicing together celebrating the Sabbats and the lunar festivals. According to Karyn, covens don’t really exist in Italy. The women healers will conjure healing circles but they don’t necessarily have any unified names for practices. “Streghe” largely have a solitary lives similar to many of the witch cultures in the states.

Italian witchery world is also an indigenous practice. That is, women healers don’t get paid for what they do. They feel that the spiritual world found them and it’s a gift they give to their community. The Italian witchery world is an indigenous practice in which they live in union with nature and use nature, herbs and the spirit world to practice and heal. This is very similar to Green Witchery here in the United States.

I continue to be enchanted and “bewitched” by Karyn’s research into Italian “Streghe”, customs, magic, culture and history so am looking forward to her book to be published!

Photo credit: Living in Season website


You can visit Karyn at for her upcoming events and continuation of her hour seminars, videos and beautiful pictures of her incredibly fascinating book “Italy’s Witches and Medicine Women“.

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